A #NoFilter Adventure in Amsterdam.

A #NoFilter Adventure in Amsterdam.Usually we go on holiday with very specific expectations of a place. We have a full itinerary and a clear idea of how a city will make us feel. We know what we want to taste, see, do, and experience.

But it can be so wonderful to visit a place we know little of. To allow its streets to tell a story. To get swept up in the feeling of a city.

That was my first experience of Amsterdam.

I went right after I graduated university. My best friend was doing a semester abroad there, so it seemed like the perfect excuse to go to Europe for the first time. But all I knew of Amsterdam was its reputation for sex and drugs. So I expected it to be fun. I didn’t know it would be magical.

amsterdamTo me, Amsterdam is like a fairy tale, all narrow streets and winding canals and flowers bursting out of every corner. But I was also surprised by its rock n roll edge. Vibrant street art. Perfectly curated vintage shops. Beautifully designed homes never adorned with curtains. There seemed to be something new and wonderful around every corner.

Traveling without knowing much about a place is like stripping off the filter of our expectations. Instead of being let down if it doesn’t measure up or only seeing one side of a city, we

That’s why I love the London City Airport #NoFilter campaign. They’re encouraging travelers to document their holidays without editing or filters. Rather than forcing your photos to look a certain way for Instagram, you can capture a place as you really saw and experienced it.

DSC01694Here are a few tips to take the best photographs straight from your phone or camera:

  • Use natural light to your advantage. You’ll take your best photos first thing in the morning or a couple of hours before the sun sets. But if it’s midday, just try not to position your subject in direct sunlight as this will create harsh shadows. If you’re indoors, try to take photos near a window.
  • Get familiar with the manual settings on your camera (this isn’t overly complicated, and I’ve provided some tips here). Then be intentional about how you can use your exposure and aperture to create the visual effect you’re looking for.
  • Take a moment to carefully compose your shot. Think about how a particular angle or framing might make it more visually interesting.
  • Take a variety of photos. Especially if you’re photographing people, as it can be difficult to notice if someone is squinting or making a wonky face.
  • Photograph details. We often focus solely on photographing landmarks or big attractions but sometimes the best photos are of the small things you loved about a place. Perfect latte art in a cosy cafe. A friendly cat on someone’s font step. A pile of tangled necklaces at a flea market. You can find amazing photos of a city’s most famous spots anywhere, but no one else can capture the small moments that defined your trip.

DSC01551Amsterdam is such an accessible city; you can bike across the whole thing in about 20 minutes, which means you can soak up so much of it in a short amount of time.

If you visit, by all means, take advantage of its wonderful sights. Give remembrance at the Anne Frank House. Marvel at creative genius of Van Gogh, Rembrandt, and the Dutch masters. Visit the floating flower markets and marvel at the expanse of technicoloured blooms.

But save time to let Amsterstamd take you by surprise. Hop on a bike or set out on foot and wander the curved paths of the canals. Turn down a street when you feel the urge to. Stop and explore anything you feel drawn to.

It might be a vibrant red eyeglasses museum. Or a cuppa and vintage clothes shopping at The Darling. Maybe you’ll want a strong brew at the lovely Two for Joy or to stop for a beer under a windmill. If you’ve got time, you could see a film at this independent cinema or shop the ceiling high stacks of magazines at Athenaeum. Spend a day exploring aimlessly. Let your intuition guide you. Allow your story to weave with the city’s. And be sure to tell me what treasures you stumble on.

What kind of traveler are you: do you prefer to plan every detail or go with the flow?

Love, stroopwaffels, & piles of bicycles,



This post was sponsored by London City Airport and was written in accordance with my disclosure policy, which you can read here. For more #NoFilter posts, visit the campaign website. Duncan Rhodes from The Urban Travel Blog will be judging all of the entries and selecting his favourite, so keep your eyes peeled for the results.

Rituals, Routines, & Real-Talk for Getting Inspired.

how-to-get-inspiredInspiration can seem like a random occurrence. An act of fate. You might wonder why some people seem to be brimming over with ideas all of the time, while you can never figure out what to write, paint, [insert your creative passion here]. And when your job or your passion project depends on your creative output, a lack of inspiration feel fatal.

Luckily science (and personal experience!) has shown that you can jump start your inspiration and become a more creative person over time.

Here’s how you can get started.

When I wrote about creating a daily writing routine, I talked about choosing rituals that get you in a writing mindset. You can also use rituals to trigger your creativity. Do you find that you have your best ideas when you’re out for a walk or taking a shower? That’s because most of the time when our brain makes new connections, it happens subconsciously. So the next time you’re struggling with a challenge or need to come up with a new idea, spend a few minutes meditating on what it is you need to figure out and then do something else. Dance to your favourite song. Walk in a beautiful park. Go to an art gallery. Read something completely unrelated. Phone a friend. Play dress up. Draw a picture. Write a poem. Experiment and see what rituals are the best creativity triggers for you.

In fact, an anti-routine has been shown to be an important ingredient for inspiration. Changing your routine regularly stops your mind from going on autopilot. Providing new sensory inputs by trying new things or doing something in a different way, will trigger your mind to think more creatively. But there are some things that, when done regularly, will turn you into a prolific idea machine. Borrow a page from James Altucher and create a list of 10 new ideas everyday. Consume a wide variety of culture – not just stuff related to your field or things you easily understand. Read, watch, and look at diverse sources of material. And always carry a notebook to write your ideas down right away. Ideas are tricky things and they’ll vanish quickly if you don’t do something with them.

Real Talk
Inspiration happens when you do the work. When you sit down every day and put your hands on the keyboard, pick up the paintbrush, or practice your moves – whatever it is that you do. It’s natural that your ideas will be bad at first. Our brains are lazy and at first push they’re basically regurgitating memories. So we need to stick with it. Push through to the slightly better ideas and the even better ones after those to the completely genius strokes of inspiration that make our spines tingle with our excitement. It’s why we need to write, re-write, edit, and then re-write again. Saying that you’re not creative or don’t have any ideas is a cop out. Do the work and the ideas will come to you.

What do you when you’re feeling uninspired? I’d love to hear!

Love, watercolour roses, & cat eye sunglasses,

How to Create a Daily Writing Practice.

how-to-create-a-daily-writing-practice“This is the other secret that real artists know and wannabe writers don’t. When we sit down each day and do our work, power concentrates around us. The Muse takes note of our dedication. She approves. We have earned favor in her sight. When we sit down and work, we become like a magnetized rod that attracts iron filings. Ideas come. Insights accrete.” – Steven Pressfield

I really enjoyed sharing my tips for budding writers and I was glad to hear that many of you found them helpful.

It can feel daunting – this dream of becoming a writer. But like with anything, the trick is to just start and then keep at it.

If you want to be inspired, have better ideas, improve your writing, or “find” your voice, you need to write everyday.

It really is that simple.

There’s no magic formula or course you can take that will make you a writer. Of course reading a lot, learning the tricks of the trade, and getting critical feedback will push you further. But the simple act of writing day in and day out is how you’ll finish your projects. It’s what will make you a writer.

Creating a daily writing practice is what’s allowed me to amp up this blog, create my ecourse, and get back on track with finishing my ebook. If you’re setting out to create your own daily writing practice, here are my suggestions.

Choose a project.
Rather than facing a completely blank screen, set yourself a task. Participants in NaNoWriMo challenge themselves to write a novel in a month. Perhaps you want to do morning pages to get the creative juices flowing, write a magazine article each week, or try your hand at poetry. Knowing what you’ve set out to accomplish will help keep you motivated.

Carve out time.
For me, I’ve set aside 30 minutes each day to work on my ebook – which is in addition to all of the other writing I do. Depending on your project, you might want to set yourself a daily word or page count. But it’s essential to figure out where this time will fit into your day. Consistency is key.

Determine the where.
I’m happiest writing at my desk or curled up in my favourite café. Either way, a mug of tea is always close at hand. I’ve learned to write wherever I am, whether it’s typing away over my lunch break or stealing some time to work between finishing work and meeting up with friends because that’s what it takes. But as much as possible, I write where I feel most inspired. Xandra feels most like a writer in coffee shops and Rebecca wrote most of her book in the rose garden near her house. Where do you feel most writerly? And if the sidewalk cafes of Paris are calling you but you’re bound to the practicality of life amidst the 9-5, figure out how you can infuse a bit of Parisian chic into your writing routine – buy a croissant to nibble while you type or wear your favourite beret as you scribble.

Create a ritual.
Steven Pressfield recites a prayer from Odysseus before he sits down to write. When I’m at my desk, I smudge myself with sage and light a candle. These rituals bring a sense of intention to the writing practice. They note a beginning and mark the time as sacred. Your ritual might be as simple as disconnecting the WiFi to get rid of distractions, but I encourage you to find something that brings purpose to your practice.

I’d love to know: do you have any thoughts on starting a daily writing practice? What projects are you working on right now?

Love, clattering typewriters, & ink-stained fingers,

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